High Functioning Anxiety?

Naturally since starting this blog I have worried about what people will think. I’ve had thoughts like “Is this the right thing? Am I exposing too much of myself?”, “Will people think I’m just attention seeking”, “Am I boring them?”, “Do people even read it? Do they even care?”, “what if they read this, but think it’s a load of crap, as I’m up every day, at work, out socially etc. They’ll never believe what I have to say”. Again, with the negative thoughts. But I must remember why I’ve started this blog. I’ve done this for myself, to get out what I’m thinking/feeling, but also to help those around me and even strangers facing the same struggles. These worries are what has inspired tonight’s post, as I need people to understand that I do appear ok on the surface, but inside it’s a very different story.

In 2005 I was diagnosed with G.A.D (Generalised Anxiety Disorder). Meaning, I don’t just have one form of Anxiety, I have a bit of everything; I worry about absolutely everything from social situations, health, money, family, friends, work etc. Yes I know, everyone worries about these things, but for someone like me, It involves anticipating the worst, and overthinking the scenarios of how the worst can happen. This level of worrying and overthinking, is what rears the feeling of being scared and can induce a panic attack.  In the beginning, I found it overwhelming and I really struggled to cope. When you go from being ‘normal’, to essentially fearing life, it does take its toll. In the first few years of learning to cope, I was completely erratic and I had many more bad days than good. These days, it’s a different story. I can go weeks having good days, before I have an episode where my Anxiety can take over.

What is a good day, and what is a bad day? Well a good day to me is one where I’ve not let my Anxiety take over. It’s always there, in the pit of my stomach, like a dull ache, but on good days I can ignore it. I can let the feeling wash over me, and I will pull through and do what needs to be done. A bad day, is one where that feeling cannot be ignored, and I let it consume me until it’s grown bigger than I can handle. This doesn’t always result in a full-blown panic attack, these days it usually manifests as depersonalisation. You will find that over time, you find your own ways to manage your fears. You become accustom to what can set you off and you can choose to avoid it completely, or, find a way to get you through it. I wouldn’t recommend avoiding your fears forever, as you will only isolate yourself, making you feel worse. I would say that you should understand what your triggers are, and work towards better managing them. My way of coping is PMA, and in my blog about this I explain how I have to reinforce positive thoughts in my head, or completely distract my thoughts to get me through things that make me feel anxious.  I would love to sit here and say that I’ve mastered all my fears, I have not, but I have mastered most and like to think this attributes to me being able to get up each day, go to work, go shopping in supermarkets, and be there for my family.

I’m someone who is classed as having ‘High Functioning Anxiety;’. What is high functioning Anxiety? Well, it’s pretty much what it states; it’s someone who is high functioning, but still lives with the inner struggles of an Anxiety Disorder. If you have read my  blog, ‘You don’t look anxious to me!’, I do explain, that just because someone isn’t cowering in a corner shaking, doesn’t mean that they don’t have an Anxiety disorder.  Remember watching Tom & Jerry, when the Angel & Devil would appear on Tom’s shoulders? Having high functioning anxiety is a bit like that. Naturally the Devil is your Anxiety, and the Angel is your rational thoughts. It’s a constant battle between the two. I get negative thoughts, rationally I know it’s my anxiety, but this doesn’t always stop me from doubting myself or letting the feeling of being anxious overwhelm me. I’m pleased to say my rational thoughts triumph more these days, and I appear like I’m a ‘normal’ person.

Despite me appearing normal to those around me who don’t know any better, I do struggle with:

  • Never feeling good enough – Every single day of my life I feel like I’m a bad mother, bad wife, bad at my job, bad friend and just an all-round bad person. I worry about every little decision I make, how it will impact others, and will this cause the people I care about to hate me. If you are outwith my circle, I care about what you think, how you are, how my actions affect you, but, if you are in my circle (someone I care about), my feelings of not being good enough for you are magnified. I fear that I will be seen as a fraud, and that you will see the terrible person I am and leave me.
  • Rejection – Yes, I just love to be rejected! Said no-one ever. No-one likes it. Probably one of the worst feelings in the world. For someone like me though, this ties in with never feeling good enough. If we take the chance to put ourselves out there, exposing ourselves, only to be told we’re essentially not good enough, that hits us hard. I will doubt myself in every way. I will sit and scruitinise every single moment of our encounter, and tear myself up inside. A job interview for example? Wow. I will over play every possible outcome of this interview in my head, then when in the interview, I’m just a wreck. Looking at the interviewers faces thinking “Why are they not smiling? Oh, my god they hate me. I shouldn’t have worn this outfit, I don’t look smart enough…” These negative thoughts will go on. I will then leave the interview and over play the whole scenario again in my head, hating the answers I’ve given, beating myself up for missed opportunities to say something funny/positive. Queue a bout of panic, depersonalisation, and the need to go home and curl up in bed. That is exactly what happened after the last job I went for. Thankfully I got that job, but that didn’t stop me from being in bits until I got the call to say I had the job. I don’t think I slept or ate a full meal for a week.
  • Change – Small progressional changes I can just about cope with, as these I can prep, plan and make lists for. Big changes that are progressional, are a little more nerve wracking, but again manageable if I’m given time to prep, plan and make a list. Sudden change can set me off into a downward spiral. This is throwing me into the unknown, unprepared, and I will freak out. Sometimes I’ve done so publicly, others I’ve had a quiet eruption beneath the surface.
  • Being let down – I am someone who has had to learn to cope with things on my own. I pride myself on this and will never ask for help, unless it’s completely necessary. If someone has said they will be there for me, or help me, and let me down, I take this particularly hard. It sends my thought process down a negative path of wondering things like “Do they not care?”, “Am I not worth their time?”, “Is this because they hate me”, and before you know it I’m doubting my relationship with this person. Sounds dramatic, and it very much is, but it’s how my brain operates.
  • Stress – No-one likes feeling stressed. It’s hardly a pleasurable feeling. We all deal with it differently; there are those of us, that very rarely get stressed and when they do, they understand they need to slow down. Then there are those that find the smallest situations stressful, namely me, and do not cope well with high stress situations. I deal with high stress situations every day, that others may hear about and think “wow, you need to calm down”. Just a heads up, never tell someone who’s stressed to calm down, you’ll only turn the stress to anger. When things get too stressful for me, I need to take a deep breath, walk away, clear my thoughts, then come back to try again. Doing this allows me to look at the situation more objectively and assess things properly.
  • Health Concerns – I worry relentlessly about my health. All it takes is a chest pain (usually wind. Must be all the hot air), and I’m convinced I’m having a heart attack. A headache is a stroke/brain tumour. Sore stomach is an ulcer/stomach cancer. You can see the pattern here. I know this I not rational, but in the back of my mind I then worry that one day I’ll blame it on the anxiety and it will be real and I’ll die. That will be that. I will have ignored obvious signs of being unwell, put it down to being in my head and I’ll just die.

Ok so to anyone who has just read my list and is thinking, “Well, I can relate to all of that and I’m not anxious. We all don’t like these things”. You are totally right. The things I have mentioned are things that no-one in the world likes to have to deal with. My point here is; whilst no-one likes to feel stressed, be let down, go through change, be rejected, or never feel good enough. To someone like me, we cannot cope with these situations, as well as someone with a more rational mind. That is the difference.

How do I manage to be high functioning, when feeling anxious?

  • Planning – I like to plan, plan, plan! I swear the people close to me are driven around the bend with this. The unknown is a daunting place, and I like need to be prepared. If I’m ever in a situation where I do not have time to plan, my panic will start to surface. I do not cope well with not at least contemplating how things will work out. I need to have at least one scenario in my mind.
  • Lists – Once I have planned something, I will then list the tasks in hand. This is so that I know nothing will be missed, but also so I know I’m on the right track and can see my progress.
  • Distraction – I need to keep my mind busy all the time. One of the reasons I love my job, is the fact that I can completely submerge myself into work. When I’m working, I don’t have to think about the house, the kids, my partner, bills, family, health, friends etc. I get to just worry about the task in hand. I need my work to be able to cope, and even on what may be a bad day, I’ll chose to go to work, as I know staying at home would be worse, as it would give me more time to think. There have only been a few occasions where going to work wasn’t feasible, but this was because the physical symptoms were so bad, that I just would not have managed.
  • Space – I need space! Lots and lots of space. Me time is a must. I need to be in a room where I’m not expected to answer 101 questions, or even just have a conversation. I’ll often just crawl into bed and put on a movie/TV show, something I can get totally lost in, that allows me to completely detach for a couple of hours. I always find that my brain is racing at 100mph, but chilling with a good movie, allows my brain to switch off.
  • My Circle – My circle is small, and purposefully so. I need to surround myself with people who understand why I am the way I am, but also those who are a positive influence and who can keep my spirits up. These are also people who I trust implicitly and who I know would never let me down, reject me or make me feel like I wasn’t good enough.
  • Music – Everyone listens to music, whether it’s when you’re getting ready for work, in the car, when you’re cleaning, cooking etc. All of us listen to our music. I listen to music all the time, every opportunity. Why? Because it helps to calm my thoughts. If I put music on, then I tune into the rhythm or the lyrics and it helps to keep my negative thoughts at bay.


There is nothing to say that because you suffer Anxiety/Depression, you cannot be high functioning with it. For some people, they can’t, either due to still learning how to manage their disorder, or the fact they’ve got an acute form of Anxiety/Depression, that prevents them from being able. I have found a way to manage my anxiety to the point where I can do things like go to work, go out socially, and have a life that would appear to be ‘normal’, but this doesn’t mean I don’t find it hard. For those of you reading this that don’t suffer from mental health issues, I do hope that it’s given you some understanding of what it’s like for us. For those of you that can relate, or are just learning how to manage your Anxiety, I hope this helps you to see you’re not alone. If you have any of your own coping strategies you’d like to share with me, I’d be happy to hear them.

I was diagnosed, now what?

I was prescribed Citalopram, 20mg to start, and then put on a waiting list for a counsellor. When I was given my prescription, I was advised that it can take up to 2 months for the effects of the medication to start working, but I should start to notice improvements after 30 days. 30 days? I asked if they had anything that would work now, and I was advised of betablockers, but they weren’t keen. I was assured that Citalopram was the right one for me, as it was the most common to be prescribed for Depression/Anxiety, with the best results. Well what can you say to that? You want the best results, right? I took the prescription and started my medication that day.

My first couple of days were OK, I even felt like they were working, of which I know was totally all in my head. Complete placebo effect, as they had not been in my system nearly long enough. Did that matter though? Well, no. Not if it made me feel better. I was looking at things more positively, this medication was the answer to all my problems and it was going to bring the old me back. Right? Well, no. My optimism lasted but a few days, my feeling of fear hadn’t gone, despite me knowing I wouldn’t feel better for nearly two months. I wanted results, and I wanted them yesterday. Why wasn’t I feeling better yet? I started to feel quite poorly, if I remember rightly I had a cold or something, but naturally, I’d convinced myself that my medication was doing this to me. I made the big mistake of reading the side effects of Citalopram. Yeah, don’t do that. In fact, if you’re reading this and have anxiety, I urge you to take all the little leaflets inside all of the boxes of medication you have and throw them out. These side effects are worst case scenario and are put on these leaflets, for the 1 in a however many chances it would ever happen, to cover their backs.

Reading that leaflet sent my anxiety into overdrive; Stiff muscles? Umm well yeah. Check. Sweating? Check. Irregular heartbeats? Check. Agitation? Definitely check. Seizure?? What? Umm, well probably now yes! I started to hyperventilate. I was beside myself. What had this doctor given me? Was he trying to kill me? Naturally I went into full blown panic mode, and had to be peeled off the ceiling. My partner phoned the doctors surgery, and I was given an emergency appointment. Well of course this was an emergency. I’m clearly taking a reaction to this medication you gave me. What use is medication if it makes you worse? I was now crying with fear and frustration at the whole situation. Why can’t someone just help me? Why couldn’t someone have the answer to make it go away?

When at the doctors, I had my blood pressure and breathing checked. Was that it? I mean seriously, this medication could have killed me. I then had it explained to me that everything was fine, they had no concerns that the medication was causing any of these symptoms and that it was my Anxiety. To say I was unamused, would be a gross understatement. Here we are again, “Umm, it’s all in your head, now bore off please”. I get this is not what was said, but in my mind, it may as well have been. I was then asked if I’d tried 7/11 breathing. Well no, never heard of it. They explained that when I feel overwhelmed like that, I was to breathe in for the count of 7, then out for the count of 11. Try it, it’s not as easy as you think. Well not for an ex-smoker. They then told me to never read these leaflets within medication voluntarily. This, apparently, is one of the worst things an Anxiety sufferer can do. This, and google symptoms. If I got a £1 for every time I googled a symptom and ended up in a blind panic, then at the GP or A&E, I’d never need to work again. I bet you didn’t know you’re reading the blog of a woman who has successfully overcome many heart attacks, strokes, all different types of cancer, brain haemorrhage, stomach ulcer etc. Yup. I’m quite a woman.


Going home and realising, yet again, this was all in my head, and that I had wasted even more of my doctor’s time was upsetting. I just needed this to be over. I was a mess. I just had to wait the two months I was advised, and assume that all symptoms felt in the next few weeks were all in my head. Sounds simple and matter of fact, but it wasn’t. It was far from in fact. Those few weeks waiting for my medication to work, were tough. I felt detached from reality pretty much all of the time, I wasn’t sleeping/eating right, I was an emotional wreck. All whilst having to look after 3 kids under the age of 5, with a man who was about as much use a chocolate tea pot. I had absolutely no support network what so ever, and lived 20miles away from my nearest family member. So, to say I felt lonely would be an understatement. These few weeks of waiting, and the months to come, were by far the darkest times of my life.

I relied on No More Panic a lot for their support. Even going back over some of my old posts I see how needy I was, and to me now it’s somewhat embarrassing, but at the time they were all I had. I couldn’t leave the house, I had no friends, not even one, no support, and I was going it alone. I spent most days/nights in their chat room, speaking to people. Some of them I still have in my social network today and who I’m very happy to see are doing so well. The chat room would often do quizzes in an evening, or some sort of game. Sounds cheesy but it was a bit of light hearted fun, that helped to distract us from the reality of what we were all facing when we logged off. Speaking with my online friends made me realise I was not alone with regards to my diagnosis, medication, symptoms etc. I could discuss with them how I was feeling, and at least one person in the room would get it. That was all I needed, was to know I wasn’t alone, and whatever I was going through was ‘normal’ to at least one other person.

What did I do when I wasn’t online? I looked after my kids, cooked and cleaned. That was my existence, being Mum. My partner at the time, wasn’t of any real help, both emotionally or with the family/home. Our relationship was toxic, and I believe this is a huge contributor as to why I ended up this way.  I became so low that I would often think of just ending it all. I couldn’t do this anymore. I was so alone. I was permanently exhausted and I was struggling to be the Mum my kids needed and deserved. I would often think about my life, my anxiety, my toxic relationship, was I good mum? Would the world be better off without me and my drama? Does anyone love me? I remember that being a big question. Who actually loves me? Who can love me?  I’m a mess. No-one wants to be around me. Hell, I don’t even want to be around me, but I’m stuck. I honestly loathed myself. When you’re feeling low and isolated, it’s so easy to just assume that no-one loves you. I think it’s because we’re finding it hard loving ourselves, so cannot possibly fathom that someone else out there that cares. Well I did have someone, in fact I had 3 little someone’s. I needed to woman up for them, they needed a Mum that could care for them, and they loved me very much. If you have read my post on PMA, you will know that I need to find the one good thing in every situation, well my kids have always been mine. As hard as it was to do, I got up every day and I got myself back into a routine. Albeit, leaving the house was now an issue, and my routine may have been a bit sketchy at times, but the point is I got up and I tried. I wasn’t perfect and I wasn’t better, but I was doing the best I could to manage my Depression/Anxiety, but still try and be the best possible Mum I could be.

In my second month of being on Citalopram, I did notice a difference. I was calmer. The Anxiety didn’t magically go away, I wasn’t suddenly happy and all my troubles had gone, but I was calmer. I cried less and I coped more. Medication is not a magic wand, but it does help. As you can imagine, I was still upset by this. I was expecting this to be my magic cure, and it wasn’t. This was literally the beginning to me learning to manage my issues, the first stepping stone if you will. When I went back to my Doctor for a check-up I was put up to 40mg of Citalopram, and by the time I went to see a counsellor I was up to 60mg. This was a very high dose that helped to keep the severe symptoms at bay, but in turn made me incredibly tired/groggy and my panic attacks were not kept at bay for long. This would later be attributed to the fact that I suffer from low blood pressure, meaning if my blood pressure gets too low, my body gives me a surge of adrenaline, thus making me feel I’m about to panic, and inevitably I do. Whilst the medication helped, it’s not the sole reason I managed my Anxiety. The rest of it was down to me, the medication only dulled the symptoms, to allow me more time to focus. I’m not sure exactly when I got my appointment for my counsellor, all I know is; I wasn’t there that long, maybe only 6 months. I would go to see her every 2 weeks for an hour, and we’d just sit and have a chat about things that had been going on with me; Did I have any panic attacks recently? Any major stresses? How were things with my partner? How was I coping with the kids? Etc. Counselling helped me to see I was completely miserable with all aspects of my life, not just one or two things. I was in a very bad relationship, I was grossly overweight, I had no friends, no support network as my family were 20miles away, I lived in a city I didn’t particularly like and I didn’t have a job.  So, first things first, I sat with her and discussed all the things about myself and my life, that I could change for the better. This is when I realised that the only person who could help me, was me. Fact. I had spent these few months waiting for the right person or the right medication to wave a magic wand and make everything ok, and now I knew this was never going to happen. It was all down to me.

I took stock of my life, what was important, what I needed to change, and I just went for it. I knew things had to change, I was miserable. I started by ending my toxic relationship. By far, the best thing I have ever done. You do not need toxic people in your life, it’s far too short to have them making you unhappy. I then had to address the fact I hated not working and that I had a poor education. I went back to work for a bit, but then enrolled into college, of which was another great decision. I love that I chose to go back and get my education, and I love that I have made some lifelong friends in doing so. In fact, it was going back to college that helped me immensely with my Anxiety. That is not to say it wasn’t difficult, it was especially difficult. It involved me going into a building with lots of strangers, putting me into crowds, queue like systems on the stairs and in the halls, sitting in a class with strangers etc. I had a dry mouth and sweaty palms most days, and I relapsed back onto medication at one point. Despite that, I still don’t regret it. Exposing myself to these situations, and forcing myself to get up and do, has helped me to better understand how to cope and my personal boundaries. I was 25 when I went back to college, so imagine my shock when on my first day I was put into a class full of pubescent boys, only for the tutor to realise my age and then shift me into the ‘mature students’ class. Both nervous and offended, I slinked to the back of my new class where I just sat staring at the board, never daring to look at someone else. What if they looked back? Caught my eye and then I’d have to speak, or feel the need to smile. Umm no thanks. I stayed very quiet for the first few days, but soon warmed up in class discussions. It was then I got talking to a few girls in my class, and realised I knew one of them from years before. We hit it off, and she is one of my best friends to this day. The next three years in college, were some of the best years of my 20’s. I would elaborate more here, but I feel that time of my life is a blog of its own.

The moral to my story is; Take all the help from your doctor that you can, they do know what they’re talking about, but be prepared for the positive changes to come from you. You need to find out what it is that makes you unhappy and what makes you happy. Make a list if you must. Assess the things in life you can change, and those you can’t. The ones you can change – do it. It won’t be easy, and more than likely the decisions you will be faced with will be tough, but they’ll be a step in the right direction to you changing something that makes you unhappy, into something that makes you happy.

You don’t look anxious to me!

I don’t look anxious to you? Well that is fantastic, hold on a moment whilst I just inform my brain to stop my insides from trembling, my thoughts from racing at 100mph, my mouth to stop being dry, my vision to straighten out and my heart to stop pounding out of my chest, because hey, I don’t look it.

If you are someone who suffers from an Anxiety condition, I’m sure you will have been on the receiving end of this statement, and we can agree on how infuriating it is. What is it that they’re trying to suggest with this statement? Are we just making our condition up? Why yes, you’re right, I’m not anxious at all now you point out how calm I look. Fantastic. Who needs doctors, counsellors and medication. You sir are a legend.

To those of you reading my blog who do not have an Anxiety condition, and who think, or worse, say that statement to someone who has, don’t! You have absolutely no idea the implications this statement will have on someone like me. All you will do is set off another bout of anxiety, or make the current bout worse. We will start to think things like “Do they think I’m making this up? Do they think I’m a hypochondriac? I’m doing their head in now with all my moaning, they’re getting fed up” or “Maybe I’m not anxious, if they cannot see my, obvious to me, physical symptoms. Maybe there is something more sinister at play here…” And here we have started a negative cycle of thoughts and self-doubt. Now our palms are sweating, our heart rates have increased even more, we cannot have a single positive thought, the walls are now closing in and our anxiety is crippling us on the inside. On the outside? We are probably smiling through it. Looking quite calm. No doubt quiet, as there is no way to hold a conversation when Anxiety takes hold, as it’s taking all our energy to ride out the next wave of panic.

Everyone who suffers from Anxiety, suffers differently. The way I suffer will be different from you, as will the way I cope. There are some generic symptoms that are the same i.e. quickened heart rate, shortness of breath, muscle cramps, headaches, dry mouth, upset stomach, vomiting, shaking, numbness of the hands and/or feet, insomnia, and dizziness. I have suffered all of these, and during a bad flare up, I will get pretty much all of them at one time. In the beginning, I would get these, and I suppose it may have been obvious to people I was having these symptoms. You know why? Because I would usually be mid freak-out and whoever was with me would have me say “Oh my god, my hands have just gone numb. I think I’m having a stroke. Is my face drooping. Wait I think I can feel my face drooping. It is, right I need to get to the hospital” or “I can’t breathe, my heart feels like it’s going to explode and I have a pain in my right arm. I’m having a heart attack”. Now that I’ve lived with these symptoms long enough, my head still thinks these things, and I still worry that I just might have something more sinister wrong with me, but I know I’ve been here before and I just need to ride it out. So, unless I’m explicitly telling you what is going on in my head, and that my head is pounding, my heart is racing and my arm aches, how would you possibly know?

I spend my entire life in a state of feeling anxious. I have days where I cope better than others. My good days usually are due to positive people and positive encounters. For me, distraction is key. I keep my head buried in my work for one. I love my job, and most of the people I work with are fantastic. They are just upbeat, positive people, who manage to generate conversations of utter nonsense half the time, but it’s a conversation that isn’t about health concerns or Anxiety, so my mind is completely distracted and for a time I forget. If I’m highly stressed, or something significant has happened, I find even positive people and encounters cannot help, as my mind will be far too gone with the Anxiety to be able to let the positive thoughts in. On my more anxious days, I will be more quiet, possibly not as smiley, but my symptoms are not visible. My colleagues cannot see that I’m shaking on the inside, that my palms are sweaty, my heart is racing and I just feel like I want to run and I don’t really know why. They don’t know/see this, but does that mean it’s not happening? No.

To all of you dealing with this condition every day, who doubt themselves, their diagnosis, their sanity, and who have had to put up with the statement “Well you don’t look anxious to me”, remember this; This is your daily struggle, not theirs. Mental illness is not something that can be seen, but it is felt. You know how hard it is to get up every day and deal with how you feel, and you know how much you achieve each day just to do what a ‘normal’ person does without a second thought. Never let someone make you feel like you’re making it up, or that you’re a hypochondriac. If they don’t understand, try to calmly explain to them what having an Anxiety disorder really means, and the real struggles it poses. Send them to helpful websites with lots of information, to help educate their narrow mind. If they’re not willing to educate themselves, or they still pose the same view, then you need to consider if you need that kind of negativity. We don’t need nor want to be wrapped in cotton wool, but what we do need each day, to be able to cope ourselves, is a little understanding. We don’t need someone to hold our hand and walk us through life, but we do need someone to appreciate that whilst we don’t need a walking aid, we still find it hard.

For all my fellow Anxiety suffers – You are awesome. If you are up, dressed and contemplating a day that scares you, but doing it anyway, you are one strong badass. Don’t let anyone let you believe any different.

How Anxiety changed me for the better

When people look at pictures of me as a toddler, I get comments like “You were so cute”. I had long blond hair, big brown eyes, and cute smile, so what went wrong? As I grew up, I started to become awkward looking; my eyes just looked bug like, my nose became large and crooked, and my adult teeth came in squint. This lead to my rather perceptive peers pointing out my flaws relentlessly. My reactions to being called names could have been better, other than me lashing out and giving them more fuel for the fire. I was a child after all, and I didn’t exactly get the best of advice on how to deal with the bullies either. My mum would say “Walk away and smile, they hate that”, and my Dad would say “Kick them where it hurts”. Neither were supportive or helpful, just conflicting and left me wondering what I was supposed to do. I would try to stick up for myself, but these kids would often be in groups so I would feel too intimidated to do anything. When you are bullied it changes how you see yourself and how you trust/see others. For me, it gave me a huge chip on my shoulder and made me quite a bitter girl. I developed a terrible attitude and I took my moods and frustrations out on everyone around me.

At the age of 11, the bullying made me so miserable I was now going home and crying most nights and I began to dread School. Even my supposed friends were joining in. My Mum took me to the doctor to see what they could do, and I was referred for Rhinoplasty . Around a year later I was sent an appointment for the surgery. I was elated, this was going to fix all of my problems. The day after my surgery, I was allowed to get up and go to the toilet. Looking at my reflection in the mirror, I was quite taken back. I had a huge cast over my nose, which was taped over my cheeks and forehead. My eyes were all puffed out and were a horrible yellow/purple colour. I just hoped this was all going to be worth it. Two weeks later I had the cast removed, and I was gutted. I didn’t look that much different, and I felt the same. My first day back at school, a group of girls approached me and I kid you not, one of them said “Does this mean you’re like Cher now and can’t sit in the sun?” The silly mare clearly thought that plastic surgery meant you get plastic put into your face. The level of ‘what the %*@!?!’ cannot even be described. I didn’t even answer her and kept going. I generated a lot of interest from people after my surgery. Especially from people who never gave me the time of day before. You would think this would make me happy right? Wrong. This just really annoyed me. I’d had surgery on my nose, not a personality transplant. I was the same person. This only made the chip on my shoulder bigger, and my attitude worse. I now hated people and did not care one iota what they thought of me either.

I spent the rest of my teens and early 20’s with a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude. My motto was very much “like me? Don’t like me? Don’t care”. I would just open my mouth, spew out words, and if you were offended? Tough. You just needed to man up. My sister actually wrote inside my birthday card for my 21st that she was unable to find tact as a gift, as this was a running joke that I was never blessed with any. I had no tolerance for anyone or anything. I didn’t like people, and I didn’t care if they didn’t like me. I had managed to build a pretty awesome wall around myself, which protected me from being hurt emotionally.

Then BANG, Anxiety/Depression struck. The floodgates opened and I became exposed and fragile. The slightest thing could be said and I’d break. I didn’t cope with this at all. My wall was gone and with it was the ability to deal with anything. All of these emotions were flooding in daily and I had no way to deal with them. I started to care about how I looked, what people thought of me, how I came across etc. I even cared about the things I said to people, perhaps even a too much. I was having conversations with people, then walking away, playing the scenario over in my head. Scrutinising every word that was said, their responses, their facial expressions, trying to figure out if they liked me or not. It was a very alien feeling for me and I hated it. No longer was I ‘me’ anymore, I had become a stranger to myself. I was now a scared and timid young girl, who was completely lost in her own mind.  I was getting my head around my diagnosis, but I was also having to discover these new aspects of myself, learn how to deal with them, but most of all learn to embrace them. I really struggled with this. I missed my old self. I wanted to not care. Sometimes, even now, I miss parts of the old me. She was feisty, fearless, and somewhat carefree. The old me would never have stood for this ‘Anxiety’ nonsense, she would have manned up and got on. So why couldn’t I just do that? Why couldn’t I just get over it?  I don’t have the answer I’m afraid. I honestly do not know why I couldn’t just ‘get over it’, all I do know is; if I could, I would.

I went to counselling for a few months and I found this really helped me manage my emotional state. I was able to understand where these emotions were coming from and how to better handle them. My counsellor helped me come to terms with my mental illness, the fact I was now different, and the fact the old me wasn’t coming back. Thanks to my counsellor helping me do this,  I have completely reshaped who I am as a person, my thoughts, beliefs, outlook on life, perspectives, wants, needs and more. I also discovered how to be empathetic, thoughtful and just generally care about others. Sometimes I’m guilty of caring too much now, of which I can find overwhelming. I guess you can say I’m still learning how to manage my emotions, and it’s not always easy.

I spent my 20’s discovering the new me, my friend and I call this period of my life, my ‘mid 20’s crisis’, as not all of my discoveries were positive. I have tried in vain to build that wall back up, to try and protect myself as much as I can from being hurt, but it will never be what it was. To protect myself now, I keep my circle small. I don’t let people in, as doing so will only increase my chances of being let down/hurt. This isn’t to say I’ve not made the heinous mistake of letting my guard down from time to time, however, this has only ever assured me of why I like to keep it up. I make sure the people in my circle are open and honest, you know, ‘a spades a spade’ kind of people. I don’t like second guessing what people mean, or trying to read between the lines, just tell me how it is.  I’m already going to replay every single social encounter I have when I try to sleep at night, so being around people I know I can trust and who tell it like it is, means I’m not having to do this half as much.

In spite of everything, I actually have to thank Anxiety/Depression, for the woman I am today. Without it, I wouldn’t have made all of these self-discoveries and changes. I am a long way from the feisty, fierce, and somewhat carefree girl, but I’m also a long way from being content and happy with who I am. Who knows, I may never be fully content. All I do know is; I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, just as everyone is not mine, but I’m confident that I’m a good person, and that, for now, is enough for me.

What is PMA and how does it help me

PMA stands for Positive Mental Attitude, and it’s something that I need to get through a day. When you are going through depression/anxiety, it’s difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Your day can feel hopeless and you can feel completely powerless to change it. All it takes is one tiny moment to send you into a spiralling wreck, whereby you’re holding on by a thread. Everything in your life can feel negative, you feel useless and the people around you just don’t get it. All in all, it feels like there is nothing positive. Well, there is. There is always something positive in every situation. Doesn’t matter how small it is, you need to find it, recognise it, and hold onto it.

I have gone through many bad times in my life, as has everyone. I found that once my Anxiety began, I was unable to deal with difficult situations. I had become unable to make an important decision for fear of it being wrong, unable to make plans for fear of the plans not being a success, and unable to just do what felt like basic everyday tasks because of the overwhelming fear. This was, until, I discovered PMA. What I do now is I do a risk assessment for every situation/decision. I think about the worst-case scenarios and then I think about the positives. So doing something may cause me to be scared, but then I focus on the outcome and the sense of achievement I get from being able to successful complete the task in hand.

Out of everything in my day that makes me scared or even just a little bit worried, I need to find the positive to help me through. For example; I hate shopping, and I especially hate supermarkets. This probably comes from the fact I hate crowds and I associate it with my first ever public panic attack. It could also be because I’m claustrophobic, and I have social anxiety as well as G.A.D, which makes me flustered in crowds. When I stand in long queues for long periods of time, it makes me feel uneasy and I get sweaty palms and a quickened heart rate. Whilst I know it’s not rational, the fear is always there. Now how many times in a week do you think I visit a supermarket? It may surprise you to know, it’s nearly every day. I make myself go. Sometimes I’m ok when I go in, and this is usually because I go at a time where I know it won’t be too busy, or I go with someone who makes me feel safe/secure. I have other days where I find it hard, as maybe the shop is packed, and it’s loud and overwhelming. I have had times where I’ve walked into a shop and got as far as the first aisle and thought “Nope, I’m out!” and I have left without anything I’ve needed. But for the most part it’s my PMA that allows me to push myself and do something that scares me. If I’m walking in, and my chest starts to pound, my initial reaction is to just leave, but I don’t. I will tell myself “It’s ok, you know you’re ok. You have done this before, in fact, many times before and everything will be fine”. I literally chant this to myself in my head, assuring myself I’m OK. If I have someone with me, I will use them to distract my thoughts. Keep the conversation positive and upbeat. Talk about something funny that happened in work, or movies/music that I’m liking at that given time. Anything that will keep the negative thoughts/feelings at bay. Then, once I leave the shop I feel a sense of relief & achievement. Now, to some reading this they may be thinking “Settle down love, it’s only going shopping”, well to me, it’s a big deal. Always has been, and probably always will be. So, what is the positive in making myself walk into a shop every day when my anxiety will flare up? It’s knowing that I can do it. It’s the feeling of achievement and knowing that my anxiety has not held me prisoner. It’s knowing that I’m in control.

This will not always work for me 100% of the time, like I mentioned before I have abandoned a shop when I feel too overwhelmed. I’m an advocator of pushing myself out of my comfort zone and doing things that scare me, but I’m also aware of boundaries and not pushing myself too far. I know my limits and I know, depending on how I’ve slept, my mood, and how my anxiety has been of late, will determine how far I can push myself on any given day.

I have also found that surrounding myself with positive people helps. Moods are contagious, so if you’re around people who are constantly negative and who bring the mood down, you will always be in a negative mindset. I surround myself with people who keep a positive attitude and who I feed off, to help spur on my positive thoughts and moods. Negative people; people who are just not nice, who have nothing nice to say/offer, moody, put you down, put others down etc, are people I must avoid. I find I take them personally, even if their negative energy is not directly aimed at me,  this can just ruin any attempt at PMA.

A recent example of this was only a few weeks ago; It was a Monday, the sun was shining, I was on time for work, the kids had got up without a fuss, so all in all, the day was going well. I had a lot be positive about. I got into work and was met by someone who was in a bad mood, and they felt the need to project this onto me. Now this person is someone I like and respect, so I found I took this particularly hard. I couldn’t believe how I had been spoken to, and I couldn’t fathom why, I hadn’t done anything wrong. Or wait, had I? This then caused me to start overthinking the conversation. What had I done wrong? Did they just not like me? No, they must hate me to speak to me this way! They think I’m a joke! Maybe I am. Maybe I just shouldn’t speak to people. No wait, I must speak too much. Am I just doing their head in? These thoughts raced through my brain, as I felt my eyes well up and my bottom lip go. I had gone from being in such a good, positive mood, to now feeling so low and pathetic, that I was now crying at my desk. I left the office and sat in a toilet cubical and sobbed. Deep down I knew I was being irrational. I knew I wasn’t these negative thoughts, but being someone who overthinks everything and someone who has such low confidence and a low opinion of myself, it’s hard to bounce back from a negative encounter such as this. I then started to feel really silly and embarrassed, like everyone would know that a grown woman had just been sat sobbing in the loo’s like a small child. I just had to take a moment. I needed to think rationally about what was happening here, as I could feel the anxiety creeping in. I could feel the overwhelming urge to just run out the door and run home to curl up in bed. I just needed to breath. I did my 7/11 breathing and put my wrists under the cold tap. I looked at myself in the mirror and I told myself “You are a good person. No-one hates you and no-one thinks you’re silly! Hell, no-one even knows you’re in here”. I just had to keep assuring myself that I’m a good person and no-one hates me. This is their problem that they’re this way, not mine. It may have taken me about 10 minutes or so, but I calmed down. I was then able to compose myself and go back to my desk. I then messaged this person to ask if I had done something to upset them, and I was assured they were just in a mood and to not take it personally. Now I do believe that had anyone else been on the receiving end of this negativity, it would have washed over them, as they would have realised it was just someone in a bad mood. Heck, we all have them right? Days when we’re not in the mood. But to someone like me, it hits us hard. We take it as a personal attack.

I would love to say I got my positive mood back, but I didn’t. I felt depersonalised (detached from reality) for the rest of the day, of which completely hindered my productivity, as I was now having to concentrate 200% harder than ever. What was the positive here then? Well, you know what, I managed to calm myself down. I didn’t run for the door and run home to curl up in bed. I didn’t let this person completely ruin my day and I didn’t let my anxiety control me. This was my positive from what was a very low day, and I clung to that.

Every day is a struggle when you suffer from Anxiety. It feels like you’re swimming against a strong current, as everything takes so much effort. Your mind is constantly on the go, of which causes you feel like you’re in a permeant state of exhaustion.  Life in general just feels so hard at times, and often we can make the big mistake of comparing our struggles to those around us. We look to other people and think things like “I wish I was carefree like them”, or “they don’t appreciate how easy they have it”. First bit of advice here; STOP comparing yourself to others. You don’t know their struggles, and they don’t know yours. Their struggles, or lack there of, depending on how you’re looking at them, is none of your business. Concentrate on you and you alone. Second bit of advice; Keep positive! Celebrate the little successes in a day. If your success today is that you left the house for a pint of milk. That is not menial. That probably took all the courage and energy you had today, and you have probably felt completely drained from having done it. Celebrate it and don’t let it go by as something small. This was a huge deal, and you did it!

I know it might seem impossible to find the positive in every situation, but try it. I would be keen to know of your struggles, and how you celebrate your successes. Feel free to comment below or even drop me an email.

My story of when Anxiety took hold

Where to begin? I guess from the very start…

Around 10 years ago, I was sitting minding my own watching my usual evening T.V programs when all of a sudden I couldn’t breath. My chest was tight, my breathing and heart rate quickened, what was happening to me? I must be dying! It must be a heart attack. I was taken to the hospital where it was decided I was OK. Umm excuse me, no, I was not ok, I just suffered a major heart attack. Didn’t I? That’s definitely what it felt like, or what I imagine one would feel like. I had a doctor sit me down and explain that all of my vitals were fine, bloods and urine was fine. However, the whole time he was talking I was just thinking “Do them again. This is wrong. You’re wrong. The medical system is wrong. I’m dying”.

I left the hospital sobbing. I felt unsupported, cheated, lied to, hurt, patronised, embarrassed and scared. These feelings didn’t leave me any time soon, and the very next day I had another ‘heart attack’. I called NHS24, to be told to calm down. I’m sure it wasn’t as simple or as straight to the point as that, but it’s certainly what it felt like. Over the next few days I had more of these ‘heart attacks’, I was besides myself. What was wrong with me? Am I dying and they’re just not telling me?

An appointment was made with my G.P, although I had no faith that they would be able to help me. What use would a G.P be if an ER doctor couldn’t diagnose the fact I’m clearly very very ill. When I got to the surgery I was given a doctor I’d never had before, so this naturally had me believing the appointment was totally pointless. I still remember the day well, although not the doctors name unfortunately, I just remember he was a middle aged man, slender, softly spoken and probably the first/best start to my getting help. He walked me in and sat me down, he sympathetically listened to my somewhat incoherent ramblings of our failed medical system and why I needed someone to take me seriously. He calmly said that he would do everything he could to help me, there and then, and that he recognised I needed to be checked. He sent me to the nurse for blood and urine samples to be taken, when I returned he took my blood pressure and listened to my heart and lungs. Then we just spoke for a bit.

During our conversation I had revealed that I was a Mum to 3 children under the age of 5, and I was only 22 years old. He also asked about how I coped with this, what else did I have going on, and had anything big happened in my life recently? Well it had; around 3 months prior I had hemorrhaged in my womb, which had lead to me ending up in hospital. I had hemorrhaged that badly, I required 3 blood transfusions before I was able to receive anesthetic for the operation, I then hemorrhaged during the surgery and required a further 2 transfusions when I was back on the ward. I nearly died. The last thing I had said to my children before this happened to me was “Goodnight, love you, see you in the morning”, but they nearly didn’t see me in the morning. The experience was scary and I guess traumatic, but as soon as I was well enough to go home to my kids, I hot footed out of the hospital. I hate hospitals, always have, absolutely no intentions of staying longer than required. I didn’t dwell on the situation. In fact, I dare to say it wasn’t even a thought. I was just happy to be better and home.

I believe the G.P asked this, due to having looked at my medical history and realising that this was probably a pretty significant thing to have happen. He went on to explain that he feels that I may have been suffering from ‘Anxiety’, and continues to explain that this is a very common thing, especially when people can feel overwhelmed and have significant triggers happen in their lives. This was not the answer that I wanted to hear. I was essentially being told that this is all in my head, I’m making it up, it’s not real. When it is real. It’s physical, It hurts. I cried. No, I sobbed. I was devastated at his proposed diagnosis and again, refused to believe it.

When leaving the surgery that day, I felt worse. Even more patronised and humiliated. I refused his diagnosis and I refused his suggestion of medication and a referral to talk to someone. The days went by and these attacks got worse. I stopped eating, my stomach was in knots, I sat in a permanent state of fear. I longed for sleep, as I was sooo tired and drained, but I couldn’t switch off. My thoughts were racing a 100mph, I was thinking about thinking, then overthinking the thinking about thinking. It was horrible situation to be in. It felt like I was losing my mind. The level of anxiety I was now feeling, left me in a permanent heightened state, that rendered me unable to function daily, and definitely not able to leave the house. Oh no, I wasn’t going outside for everyone to see the mess I had become. They’d know. They’d see that I was now crazy!

It was at this point, my Mum came to stay for a few days. Naturally I got the whole ‘pull yourself together’ talk, of which was of no help what so ever, it just made me feel even more out of control, as if it were that easy would I not have done it? Who actually wants to be in a situation where they cannot eat, sleep or function? I know the words came from a place of good intention, but that didn’t mean they were helpful. My Mum then decided I wasn’t staying in the house anymore, I was to get up, get dressed and get to the shop. First stop? Asda. Yup, busy supermarket. As I walked in the door I felt my heart pounding out of my chest, the lights were so bright I could barely see. People were looking at me, they must see I’m not right. They know. They know I’m crazy. My thoughts are racing, and I’m trying to keep pace with my Mum, but now I can’t breathe. I’m on the ground, gasping for air. I now have a crowd around me and my Mum telling me to get up. I can’t. I can’t breathe, I can’t see. I hear someone shout “Someone get a first aider, she’s having an asthma attack”.  My Mum is trying to tell them I’m ok, I don’t have asthma. She manages to get me off the floor and get me out to the car. I sat in that passenger seat and shouted at her. This was all her fault. Why did she make me do this. Then I just burst into tears. The realisation of what had happened. I had just shown the world I was a crazy!

Another appointment was made with my G.P for the next morning, and it was the same doctor. This time my Mum came in with me and she proceeds to tell the doctor I’m not coping and he needs to help me. I let out a sob “Just tell me, am I crazy?”, to which he replied “No. Do you know why I know? Crazy people don’t know they’re crazy”. After another long chat, with my Mum and I, he strongly urged me to accept his suggestion of medication and a referral for someone to talk to. I’m pleased to say I did, and that it was the first step on my journey to be able to better manage my Anxiety.